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The Malik Report

Talking about the post-Nicklas Lidstrom Red Wings

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector penned an intriguing column regarding the Red Wings’ future as Nicklas Lidstrom approaches the end of his career, talking about the team’s desire to remain elite even when Lidstrom eventually hangs ‘em up with Wings GM Ken Holland:

“I’m big on defencemen, and I think Nick has been the best at his position,” begins general manager Ken Holland. “We’ve had the most valuable player, in my opinion, in the last two decades,”

Under Holland, the best GM in the business, the Red Wings can survive anything. He’ll likely lose legendary low-post artist Tomas Holmstrom to retirement this summer, and power forward Todd Bertuzzi doesn’t have many years left. But Holland will have over $17 million in expiring contracts after this season, to go along with the $5 million in cap space he currently has.

“We’ve got some kids coming …” Holland said. “We’re like everyone else. You’ve got to find players through the draft, or find veterans (as free agents). I’m big on the Original 6. Hopefully the history and the tradition of the Detroit Red Wings is kind of intriguing to some players down the road. Like it was to Dominik Hasek, like it was with Marian Hossa. That can turn the wheel for you.”

Undoubtedly, with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, plus this management team and its winning culture in place, the Red Wings remain a Top 3 destination for UFAs. But here’s where we come back to Lidstrom. He has been a UFA magnet, as players leap at the chance to play with a Hall of Famer like Lidstrom. That powerful drawing card could disappear at any time, not to mention the major advantage of having the best player on the ice every time the Red Wings have lined up to play a hockey game over the past 20 years.

“We haven’t missed the playoffs in the 20 years that Nick has been a Red Wing. The past 11 years we’ve had 100 points or more. He’s won seven Norris Trophies and was (a finalist) another three or four times,” Holland said of Lidstrom, who was plus-2 in a 5-4 loss at Edmonton Saturday. “I’m a former goaltender, played pro for nine years. For me, premier, elite, defencemen are the most important players in the game. They defend, they attack, they transition to offence, they play against the other team’s best offensive players, they play on the penalty kill …It’s going to be a very sad day in Red Wings land whenever Nick decides he isn’t going to play anymore.”

Despite the fact that most of the Wings’ core players are in their early 30’s, Spector notes that Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill, and the team’s pro (see: Kirk Maltby, Mark Howe) and amateur scouting staffs (see: Hakan Andersson, Joe McDonnell) have ensured that the Wings still have a healthy number of prospects in the pipeline, and while Lidstrom’s eventual retirement will yield a sea change in terms of the Wings’ personnel, it won’t change the team’s master plan:

“We’ve tried to be patient,” Holland said. “In 2006, when we lost to Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs, we had 124 points and Edmonton went to the finals. I sat with Jim Nill in his office afterwards, and there were questions: Did we have too many Europeans? Were we too small?”

At that moment, [Pavel] Datysuk had played 52 playoff games and delivered only nine goals. There was legitimate conversation around the NHL about whether this guy had game or not. Today, that conversation would get you laughed out of the bar. Or perhaps beat up, at The Detroiter in Greektown.

“At the end of the day,” said Holland, “Jim Nill, Mike Babcock and I believed we were on the right path, and to continue down it.”

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Comments

WestWing's avatar

George, I thought we agreed to never, ever speak of this.

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 02/06/12 at 07:16 PM ET

Avatar

Have you never heard of Voldemort? Tom Riddle maybe??????

On the other hand,  there will be a time and rather to be prepared than not.

On the other hand,  the Wings have made the playoffs sincd Nick Lidstrom came up to Detroit.

What to do??????? 

Really though, Tick Tock has always had the answer, but this one will be the toughest of his tenure for the Red Wings.

Posted by bob knoska from Romeo, Michigan on 02/06/12 at 07:48 PM ET

TheRealYooper's avatar

tick tock on sxm 92 radio.

“the wings are like 2%,  they are like 1-41 on their last road power play, we got to get that to change”

Posted by TheRealYooper from within sight of the edge of the Earth. on 02/06/12 at 08:15 PM ET

perfection's avatar

on the CBC broadcast of the Edmonton game, after the first period, PJ Stock recounted a story where he asked Dan Cleary who the best player on the team is and he obviously replied Lidstrom. He asked him who the second best player on the team is and Cleary’s response was “whoever’s playing with Lidstrom”.

It’s the truth and it’s a reflection of just how good and how valuable Nick Lidstrom is. He’s obviously irreplaceable. Even a potential Norris candidate like Ryan Suter or Shea Weber simply pales in comparison to Lidstrom.

It’s kind of funny, but Suter in his prime is probably only comparable to Lidstrom in the first couple and last few years of his career. People like to say Lids hasn’t lost a step, though he’s obviously lost a small step the last few seasons (see Nugent-Hopkins dekeing him out of his jock the other night. There was definitely about 15 years or so where that NEVER would have happened). He’s receded all the way back to playing like one of the top 3 defensemen in the world rather than of all time. And even THAT feels sacrilege to say!! smile

Man, I miss him already…

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 02/06/12 at 08:23 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 02/06/12 at 08:30 PM ET

DrewBehr's avatar

Especially if Stuart decides to head back West after the end of this season, the Wings are going to need to make as big of a splash as possible in the off-season in order to stay in Cup contention. The thought of a Kronwall/White pairing as our top D-line terrifies me.

Beyond that though… what are our thoughts on goaltending? Obviously, Howard’s our number 1 and will be for years to come. But what if he suffers a injury that forces him out for months? Are we going to keep tossing veterans 1-year deals and hoping they pan out? Neither McCullom or Pearce are making waves, and MacDonald (while competent) isn’t a long term answer. I feel having a 1-2 punch similar to Thomas-Raask in Boston is something the Wings really should look to acquire.

Posted by DrewBehr from The Mitten on 02/06/12 at 09:05 PM ET

Avatar

I would like to state , for the record, I’d like to see that Karlsson kid in Ottawa in a Red Wing sweater.

How he gets here is Holland’s problem. Just get him !!

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from W.B. on 02/06/12 at 09:09 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Hopefully the history and the tradition of the Detroit Red Wings is kind of intriguing to some players down the road. Like it was to Dominik Hasek, like it was with Marian Hossa.

Sounds like Tick Tock is practicing his phone conversation with Suter’s agent. It’ll probably wind up along the lines of: “Sure he can get more money someplace else. But he can get more rings here. If his priority is rings, we’d love to have him become part of the family.”

Unless Suter is traded before the deadline (a possibility) or signs with the BJs (highly unlikely), I have to believe Tick Tock will do whatever is necessary to get Suter here on July 1st.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 02/06/12 at 10:40 PM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

Just reading this causes me chest pain.  I believe that Holland and the Wings organization will do the best possible to replace someone that can’t be replaced, but still…..

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 02/06/12 at 10:46 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Lidstrom can never be replaced, but after that shitfest of a game I’m calling out his leadership.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 02/07/12 at 01:47 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I don’t normally say this, but that’s silly. Two losses in 11 games = massive failure of leadership?

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/07/12 at 02:28 AM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Again, what’s with all this rational thought going on here tonight?

Oh I know it’s probably the most asinine thing I’ve said since…anyway…

It just kills me to see this team…they never get fired up to fight and claw back. Ever. It never used to be that way.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 02/07/12 at 02:34 AM ET

socalwingnut's avatar

I suppose one thing can be said about those of us who are Red Wings fans. If you expect perfection, you’ll be disappointed quite often. I look at (non-Red Wings) hockey fan friends of mine and see how excited they get over a 4 game winning streak. We’re leading the best division in hockey, yet somehow I’m bummed because of this loss? Yeah, I’m spoiled…

Posted by socalwingnut on 02/07/12 at 02:54 AM ET

Avatar

did everyone get the impression from NHL 36 that he’s done after this year? I don’t see it (though I was wrong about him coming back last year)? Next year might be a shortened schedule due to a lockout-which benefits a team like the Wings. The Winter Classic in Ann Arbor is that bonus that could tip the scale. As are the few milestones he’s got left. But maybe it’s just the selfish fan in me that feels like he did with Barry Sanders-he can’t be ready to retire yet: he’s still too good.

The team will be much different without him- though the recent 1 for 41 power play might be an indication of things to come. Lidstrom has that accuracy to thread the needle on his shot from the point. Even a Suter won’t give you that. His passes are firm but don’t regularly bounce off the boards behind the intendee as I’ve been seeing others do the past few games. He’s lost steps but plays the angles so well it takes a special talent together by him to this day (a top 2 drafted player fits that billing) yet it’s still news when it happens.

What I will always remember about Lidstrom was when the other team was pressing to go ahead or tie the game up and getting quality scoring chances and you felt like a nervous wreck: Lidstrom would get the puck and it would be the instant relaxing medicine. He simply didn’t make the mistakes. Same thing applied on defensive 2 on 1’s-Lidstrom’s back so it’s not a given they score.

Losing him will require a transition just like it did post Bowman and Stevie Wonder. But losing Stuart and him would be the worst case scenario—no matter how great Smith is made out to be.

But to end on an optimistic point: When this doomsday scenario happens Detroit will have the greatest alumni team defense pairings in the league. Cheli, Murphy, Ralfi, and a double-shifted Lidstrom should make those games easy enough to get Ozzie to play keeper.

Posted by dca from formerly in Alexandria, VA now back in Peter Klima on 02/07/12 at 10:17 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.